Sunday, December 04, 2005

Gullible's Travels

Gullible's Travels: The Adventures of a Bad Taste Tourist was a bargain book I found this summer in Tuscola, IL when I was working on my book (hey, everybody needs a break sometimes). I had never heard of author Cash Peters or his "Bad Taste Tours" on National Public Radio, but we share a peculiar affection for odd tourist attractions. And lately I've been on a roll (or more accurately, rolling on the floor) reading work by smart-aleck Englishmen, so this was a great choice to pass the time as I waited for the car to get new tires the other day. I enjoyed it so much that I wound up reading the second half out loud to my wife.

We found it hilarious. Peters marches wearily through Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis, Albuquerque and Memphis, experiencing famous and not-so-famous tourist sites. In Chicago, for example, he visits the Dr. Scholl Museum/Feet First Exhibition (which apparently has moved since the book was written -- I dated an aspiring podiatrist when the school and museum were on the near north side, but now it looks like they've shuffled their feet to the suburbs as part of Rosalind Franklin University) and Ahlgrim & Sons Funeral Parlor in Palatine, which features a miniature golf course in the basement. Peters isn't always off the beaten path, though. His visit to Memphis includes standards like Sun Studio, the Peabody Hotel (to see the ducks; he doesn't stay in such posh digs) and Graceland.

Along the way, Peters battles PR flacks who want to direct him to the city's "approved" sites and make sure he writes/speaks favorably of them. He also struggles with his career, having vowed to give it up before he started writing this book about it (the book chronicles the tail end of his NPR freelancing gig, though he rarely mentions his actual radio reports). Anyone who enjoys sarcastic commentary and weird museums should enjoy Gullible's Travels.

Peters now has a television program on the Travel Channel called Stranded. The premise is that he gets dropped off somewhere with no money, food or accommodations and must depend on the locals to make his way. It sounds interesting, but we'll probably never see it since we don't have cable.

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